Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name



Communication Studies


Mass Communications.


Gold, M.




This thesis examined how the media and five respondents socially constructed serial killer Paul Bernardo. Scholarly works from British cultural studies and select works from the social constructionist school were used in the analysis of the construction of Paul Bernardo. Specifically, Hall's (1980b) model of reading positions, preferred, negotiated, and oppositional, provided a tool for understanding how the respondents read the media texts. In addition, works by Jenkins (1994), Davey (1994), and Leyton (1986) provided insight into the serial killer phenomenon and how serial killers were constructed. To investigate how Paul Bernardo was constructed by the media, a semiotic analysis of two magazine articles taken from Maclean's and People, and three television news reports from CBC Prime Time News was conducted to discover the preferred readings which emerged from the texts. The five respondents were chosen using Thompson's schema (Berelson & Janowitz, 1953) for measuring public opinion. McCracken's (1988) long interview was used to interview them for their comments on serial killers, the media, and the Paul Bernardo case. The five media texts were also presented to the respondents for their comments in order to discover first, how they reacted to the media's construction of Bernardo, and second, how they used the texts to construct Paul Bernardo. The thesis established that the respondents read the texts in a negotiated fashion, and that their occupation, gender and socio-economic position influenced their readings. In addition, both the media and the respondents constructed Bernardo either as a monster or yuppie. This simplified interpretation provided an insufficient basis for understanding serial killers. Instead of providing an insight into Paul Bernardo, specifically, or serial killers generally, these constructions revealed important contemporary cultural values.Dept. of Communication Studies. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1996 .S54. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 37-01, page: 0013. Adviser: Mary Gold. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1996.